The movies we love and admire are to some extent a function of who we are when we see them.
— Mary Schmich
I was off yesterday, and today was kind of a lazy day, so I’ve been flipping through the channels just to see what’s on. I came across three movies that will make me stop and watch them every time.
Yesterday, Mr. Mom was on AMC. I remember watching this movie as a kid and being terrified by the out of control washing machine. I don’t think we saw it in the theater though; 1983 was a little early for my family to do that. Probably we rented it when I was about 10 or so. Everyone looked so young – Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Martin Mull. I don’t think you’d cast Keaton and Garr as husband and wife these days; she hasn’t aged as well as he has, although he hasn’t been in anything I’ve seen or heard about recently, so maybe he’s old and gray by now, I don’t know.
The best part of that movie is his descent into bearded, Young-and-the-Restless-watching, grilled-cheese-ironing madness. The day all the repair people come at once and the washing machine explodes (probably because he mixed the powdered detergent with the liquid fabric softener in order to “save a step”), and the vacuum cleaner (“Jaws”) runs amok and goes after the “Woobie”, and the middle kid catches the stove on fire? Pure comedy gold. I have to say, though, that the sexist premise doesn’t really hold up today, but I dig Teri Garr’s 80s-working-woman outfits: jackets with big shoulder pads and those blouses that tie at the neck. Nice.
Today, I came across Stepmom, just as it was starting, and I watched the whole thing. I adore Susan Sarandon, and Julia Roberts was great in this, a break from the usual comedy she does. I bawl like a baby at two points, without fail: first, when Jackie and Isabel meet in the restaurant and talk about the kids’ lives without Jackie. Jackie says, “I have their past, and you can have their future,” and it’s so painful, watching a mother who knows she’s never going to get to see her kids grow up figuratively hand them over to the woman who’s going to be responsible for raising them in her stead.
The second is Christmas morning when Jackie has the kids come up to her room individually to give them each the gift she’s made for them. The little boy, Benjamin, is played by Liam Aiken, and he’s fantastic in this role. Cute, but not precious. His gift is a magician’s cape that Jackie sewed for him, and it’s got pictures of the two of them on it. He points to one of them in the hospital just after he was born, and asks, “Did you know I was good looking right away?” So sweet. But the part that really gets me comes after he asks Jackie if she’s dying, and she says yes, and they talk about what it will be like after she’s gone, how Ben can always talk to her because she’ll be in his heart. He’s quiet for a moment, and then he says, “Nobody loves you like I do.” There aren’t enough tissues in the house to contain me at that point. Sad city.
Later today, I was having a snack and flipping channels again, and Sixteen Candles was on. John Hughes, in the 80s, was it for teen movies. Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Weird Science. Any of those would freeze my remote in a heartbeat, especially Weird Science. Anthony Michael Hall can thank John Hughes for everything he has. (Huh. IMDb says John Hughes also wrote Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I didn’t remember that, but now that I see it, it makes perfect sense. He also wrote Mr. Mom.)
All of these movies are ones I must have come to by way of slumber party movie marathons (although I remember seeing Ferris Bueller at the drive-in with my uncle and my brother one summer in Buffalo), because they all came out before I was 10, which I find hard to believe, but IMDb assures me that it’s true. They’re so iconic, and so much a part of my history as a teen (“We are what you see us as,” from The Breakfast Club, was popular as a yearbook quote when I was in high school in the early to mid-90s) that I feel like I must have always known about them, but that can’t be true.
Anyway, I love Sixteen Candles. Despite the terrible fashion, I think it really holds up as a portrait of high school angst, as do John Hughes’ other films (minus the “perfect woman” Gary and Wyatt cook up in Weird Science). I loved Dong, I loved Joan Cusack as the girl with the back brace and head gear, and most of all, I loved Jake Ryan. Didn’t every girl dream that the handsomest guy in school would grow tired of the perky, perfect blond and suddenly realize she exists and give her the perfect kiss? My favorite line in the movie comes from Sam’s (Molly Ringwald) dad. She’s sad about Jake – he doesn’t know she exists, and it hurts, she says. “That’s why they call it a crush,” her dad tells her. “If it were easy, they’d call it something else.” So true.
There are other movies, too, that will make me stop what I’m doing and watch: Legends of the Fall (and I make no bones about the fact that this is my all-time favorite movie; I own it, I can recite every line, I’ve seen it a billion times, and I sob during every viewing), St. Elmo’s Fire, Field of Dreams, Stand By Me (the theme music – not Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” but the melody that plays at the end when Richard Dreyfuss reads the news about Chris – haunts me, as does River Phoenix’s acting), The Shawshank Redemption (I can hear Morgan Freeman’s Red narrating in my head, even now), Eight Men Out (I’m seeing a trend towards John Cusack; this is probably my favorite role of his).
So what does it for you? Tell me, if you will, what movies make you put down the remote, stop what you’re doing, and settle in?